(NEW YORK) — John Sheridan’s relatives believe a killer is on the loose.
Sheridan, 72, the CEO of a southern New Jersey hospital and confidante of governors and millionaires, was found dead on Sept. 28 with his wife of 47 years, Joyce, amid a fire inside their Montgomery Township home.
An uneasy quiet settled over the ensuing investigation — quiet that ended March 27, when Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano issued a statement labeling the deaths a murder-suicide.
“The evidence in this case supports the conclusion that John Sheridan fatally stabbed Joyce Sheridan, set the fire, and committed suicide,” Soriano said in the statement.
The Sheridans’ four sons and close family members knew what to expect from the authorities but kept to themselves — until now.
Speaking out for the first time, members of the Sheridan family said the investigation was bungled from the start and the evidence does not support the conclusion.
“They spent the last six months trying to prove that it was a murder-suicide, not trying to find out what happened to my parents,” Mark Sheridan told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “They assumed from day one that this was a murder-suicide, with no investigation, without a murder weapon.”
After reviewing the reports and the evidence, retaining a forensic pathologist and speaking repeatedly with the authorities who ran the probe, the Sheridan family is convinced that a killer is on the loose because, they say, this was no murder-suicide.
“The community should be scared,” said Mark Sheridan, who is a lawyer like his father. “The prosecutor assured them that there was nothing to be afraid of, that there was no risk. He assured them after no investigation. He had no idea what happened at that crime scene and he was out telling the public they were safe.”
John’s brother, Peter, and Mark Sheridan said the DNA is inconclusive, the weapon used to slash John Sheridan is gone and key pieces of evidence in the house were overlooked.
“They’ve really indicted and convicted my brother of a crime, and my brother isn’t here to present any defense,” Peter Sheridan said, fighting back tears. “There’s no trial. There’s no ability to discern the facts that they’re…analyzing or bringing out against my brother. It’s a very unfair situation. And the facts don’t add up to something that he should be convicted of. There’s no proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Peter and Mark Sheridan said the family has decided to go public now because they now have to fight for John Sheridan’s legacy. The fight, they said, will likely be a lawsuit aimed at having John Sheridan’s death ruled inconclusive instead of suicide.
Soriano has refused repeated requests for comment and his office declined to allow any representatives to be interviewed about the Sheridan case. Soon after his report was issued, Soriano said in a written statement that he stood “confidently behind the results of this investigation.”
In response to comments made by Mark and Peter Sheridan to ABC News, Soriano’s office said: “Last Friday, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office issued a comprehensive statement, which detailed the investigation and the conclusions reached to include the findings of the Assistant Medical Examiner. In light of the repeated statements by members of the Sheridan family that litigation is imminent, due to the investigative conclusions and findings of the Assistant Medical Examiner, further comment would not be appropriate at this time.”
Peter Sheridan said that during a recent meeting with the prosecutor, Soriano confided in the family that “‘we don’t know what happened in the room that night.’ That’s what he said. And, you know, that was perfectly right, what he said then. And I don’t know why the prosecutor’s changing his mind at this point in time. It makes no sense, based on whatever evidence we’ve seen and looked at, based upon their investigation.”
Speculation and intrigue quickly spread after the initial call came in to 911 at 6:13 a.m. on Sept. 28: “I think my neighbor’s house might be the beginning of a fire.”
The tragedy was a shock to the clubby world of the wealthy and powerful of New Jersey. John Sheridan was former Gov. Tom Kean’s state transportation commissioner and was an adviser to the current governor, Chris Christie. In recent years, he served as the CEO of Cooper University Health System.
The blaze was quickly labeled arson. But almost immediately, the whispers began: officials were leaning toward murder-suicide. They refused to announce it for six months, saying the probe had to run its course. But one week ago, authorities announced their belief that John — always known for an even keel and sober outlook — violently killed Joyce, 69, and then himself, only after pouring gasoline in his master bedroom and then lighting it up.
The prosecutor says that the investigation showed that Sheridan had been upset over what was expected to be a state health department report that could cause problems for the hospital’s cardiac unit. The family and the hospital have both disputed that the CEO was personally upset over the issue and have said that the report did little to damage the facility.
The Sheridan family has insisted that the couple’s demeanor was completely normal in the days and hours before the fire — and that John Sheridan had regularly been using email and even did a video chat with his grandson.
John’s brother, Peter, told ABC News that investigators have gone and convicted his dead brother of murder without any justification.
“They didn’t even take any fingerprints,” said Peter Sheridan, a well-known federal court judge in New Jersey. “They’re relying on faulty DNA samples. And here they don’t have any psychiatric evaluation of my brother. They don’t have any blood spatter. They don’t have a knife. They don’t have a motive. They have nothing.”
Mark and Peter Sheridan said they know some originally suspected their family would get special treatment because of John Sheridan’s connections to people like the governor. In reality, they said, their family got exactly the opposite.
“The prosecutor’s office screwed up and they’re refusing to admit it,” the son said. “Screwing up means that the people that killed my parents have not been caught.”
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